The Cache County Council unanimously denied a rezone request that would allow for a butcher shop to open up in Young Ward, but unlike most applicants of failed rezones, Forrest Olsen was happy with the outcome.
“To be honest, I don’t want this zoned as industrial either,” Olsen said at the Tuesday meeting. “I am committed to this. But I want to make sure what’s done is best for the county.”
The decision was initially slated for the Oct. 27 meeting but was delayed to give the council more time to consider the options.
On one hand, opponents were concerned about changing the agricultural and residential nature of the neighborhood, including within the Olsen family, which has ties to settling the area in the 1800s.
“I grew up in the home where Pelican Pond is,” Matthew Olsen said in the heated Oct. 27 meeting. “I do know they’ve slaughtered cows there in the past. I am opposed to this not for the business part, but … in the way of looking at an Industrial zone going to be dropped right in the middle of what is essentially an agricultural area.”
On the agricultural side, there is such a high demand for cattle to be butchered that there are wait times of up to 14 months.
“I just want to be the helper,” Forrest said. “I want to make sure everybody knows that when times get tough, this is when the community needs to come together. I’m in a rural community. There are farmers out there that cannot afford to feed an animal for another year and a half till they get to slaughter point. There are families that are raising a single cow to fill their freezer for this winter, and they can’t feed them for all of next year since they can’t get a cow killed until 2022.”
When meat processing plants across the country were ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, local butchers were overwhelmed by the increased demand of local farmers, ranchers and individuals who purchased heads of cattle and other livestock to stock freezers in case of meat shortages.
“It’s almost an emergency,” said farmer and Council Member Dave Erickson. “The last thing you want to do is chew on a three-year-old steer.”
Like Matthew, the council was in unanimous support of the business aspect to address the extreme need. Erickson and Council Member Gordon Zilles voiced concern on whether a rezone was the appropriate response to achieve the goal, because even sexually oriented businesses, such as strip clubs, are permitted in an industrial zone under state code.
“There are so many things that can be put in that,” Zilles said, “and once you’ve made a zone out of it, then they are permitted. You can stop this particular thing.”
Forrest countered, “let’s face it, I don’t have the body to open an adult business. I don’t have a backup plan.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the council deny the rezone, in part because of a need to change the road from a “rural” road to a “local” road.
The necessity for rezoning the property for the butcher shop license has to do with a code that allows for no more than 25% of the livestock harvested at a site to be brought from another location.
Forrest argued it wouldn’t have a community benefit if his shop were restricted to that amount, but he was amenable to changing code to allow a higher percentage as construction will be delayed either way now that winter has hit.
Council Member Paul Borup raised concern that the new amendment could take a year before language is drafted, as has been seen with proposed changes allowing for cannabis and liquor manufacturing in the unincorporated areas of the county.
“If we need this to go through, I’d like at least a little bit of a threat of ‘Here comes the industrial zone if you don’t,’ which none of us want to do,” he said. “But that gets the ordinance change on agriculture up here quicker. I mean, I just want to light a fire under somebody.”
Chris Harrild, the county’s planning manager, said changing the code for the butcher shop would be a simpler fix than the other agricultural code amendments being worked on, and would be prioritized with the hope it could go to the planning commission in December then back to the County Council in January.